Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : Visit to Organs in South Cumbria : 13 June 2015

Fifteen members enjoyed a delightful jaunt along some of the more obscure lanes of South Cumbria, taking in four very varied organs along the way. The 1873/4 untouched two-manual Wilkinson at St. Paul’s, Lindale was in good form, if a bit short of wind. Sadly, the church faces an uncertain future.

One of our members, Anne Emmett, plays at St. Paul’s, Witherslack and the one-manual Brindley and Foster of 1878 is more than adequate to fill this beautiful, isolated church with joyful music.

If there is a more remote church than St. John the Baptist, Helsington, we have yet to find it. Thanks to the navigating skills of Alan Mason and an absence of vehicles coming in the opposite direction to our convoy we were able to negotiate some of the narrowest and steepest roads outside the Lake District and arrive at our destination. The views from the church over the Lyth Valley are stunning. We were made very welcome by Mike Fleetwood, the Helsington Church treasurer and members were able to play the 1828 Samuel Renn organ, originally in Abbot Hall. The organ was vandalised some twelve years ago but has now been completely restored and speaks with a gentle, singing voice. We were told that the organ is hardly ever played which so moved Anne Emmett that she volunteered to come and play it for some of their services.

Another slightly tortuous journey took us to our final destination of the day, St. Mark’s, Natland. The fine Austin and Paley church contains a small two-manual organ by Conacher of Huddersfield, believed to have been built for the church in about 1911. Two new stops were added by Holmes and Swift in 1996 and in 2009 Gary Owens added a Trumpet to the great. The sheer volume of sound from the organ belies its modest size and one member described it as ‘a cathedral organ in miniature’.

Thanks are due to the clergy and staff at each of the venues for their kindness in allowing us completely free access to their churches and organs but also to the members who came and demonstrated each of the instruments so well. (It’s hopeless trying to sell any music to Chris Price - he’s memorized it all already!)

National Pipe Organ Register Links

St. Paul's, Lindale
St. Paul's, Witherslack
St. John the Baptist, Helsington
St. Mark's, Natland